Thursday, December 13, 2012

November and Middle School Friends

Matt kindly reminded that there haven't been much updates on the blog, so here I am!

November was actually a very busy month, and one of my closest friends, Megan, from when I was 12 actually came to Japan for a vacation with her boyfriend Ivan (maybe you can try to spot his ninja self in the wallpaper of the photo below!).

Because of Megan, I had one of the busiest long weekends ever. Unfortunately, most of the weekend was spent without Ivan, who was busy with work, but it might have been better for him that way since Megan and I ended up getting nostalgic about our tween years without Twilight and a lot of manga and Dragonball, haha.

We were originally supposed to meet in Kawagoe, but due to some mistakes in logistics, I actually ended up being a tourist in Kawagoe by myself.

The last time I went to Kawagoe was actually for the Kawagoe festival in October. The atmosphere was very different though, without thousands of people pouring into Kawagoe to see "float battles."

Kawagoe was much more relaxed this time, and I took a leisurely trip while following the tourist map. While there were certainly many pretty and quaint temples and shrines, my favorite--by far--was the 500 Statues of Rakan.

The sculptures, despite being worn down by time and the weather, were clearly unique. There was not a single statue that was the same as another.

And, of course, you can't go to see the 500 Rakan without seeing the two men in conversation.

There was also a little quest amongst the 500 Rakan for visitors. Amongst the 500 statues, 12 statues were holding animals from the Chinese zodiac. Legend had it if you found the rakan that held your zodiac animal and rubbed its head, you would have good luck.

Needless to say, I set out to find my statue and, after carefully inspecting each and every statue, I finally found the one holding a snake.

The day I visited the 500 Rakan, I was also lucky to stumble upon the annual Chrysanthemum festival that was being held at the same temple.

I've always loved chrysanthemums (as long as they weren't in the herbal teas that my dad would occasionally force us to drink, haha), but I think Japan is the first time I've seen competitive chrysanthemum growing.

I noticed that many of the chrysanthemums were grown with three chrysanthemums per plant and didn't think much of it until I found out it was apparently about representations of the balance of the universe.

The chrysanthemums are apparently a representation of the universe with one flower representing humans, the earth and the heavens respectively (don't quote me on this!). Regardless of what they represented though, the chrysanthemums of Japan are definitely painstakingly cared for.

There were also several different types of chrysanthemums, and I think I must have taken hundreds of photos after switching between lens and going in at different angles just to try and get a picture that would do these flowers justice.

After Kawagoe, the next big touristy stop was Yokohama.

I had visited Yokohama before in 2007 when I first came to Japan, but this trip to Yokohama was much more in depth.

We went from the infamous Chinatown to the diplomats homes in Minatomirai.

The diplomats' houses, to be honest, weren't the most exciting architectural works ever, but I definitely appreciated the luxuries of older buildings with the old dark wooden finishes and wicker furniture.

I also hung out with Megan late enough that the sun started to go down (believe me, it's really early here--think 5pm). Luckily, this meant we got to see a bit of Yokohama's twilight skyline which was definitely beautiful at all stages of the night.

After Yokohama, we took on the Imperial Gardens in Tokyo next. The main goal of the visit was for me to get some photos of fall foliage and not actually any specific desire of the actual tourist (Megan). After over half a year here, I'm still more of a tourist than the friend who has only been in town for less than 4 days....

But, since we met at Tokyo Station, it was a chance for me to see the newly renovated interior and exterior of the still most confusing an annoying train station known to mankind classy brick structure.

While we got some photos of autumn foliage, I was still rather disappointed by the lack of reds and golds at the Imperial Gardens, but there were still several beautiful nature shots that let me break in the new tiny lens.

Now, I've gone this far without mentioning anything about food (I know, right?! A Christmas miracle!), but here it is--THE FOOD.

For this, I must extend my heartfelt and stomach-felt thanks to Ivan, who generously covered our meals. Delicious and free? Tabia is a happy camper.

I think he saw why Megan and I were friends for so long after hanging out a few times, haha.

There's actually still some other November events to cover, but I'll leave that for another time (hopefully this week, before December bites my butt, haha).

Stay warm, stay safe, and till next time!

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